• Regina Rhodes

The Destructive Power of Overthinking

Overthinking is utterly what its name suggests – thinking to much. Overthinking is often referred to by another illustrative phrase: analysis paralysis.

Overthinking is going over the same reasoning, again and again. Analyzing the simplest of situations or events until all sense of proportion has gone. The trouble overthinkers encounter is the brain's inability to translate these thoughts into actions or positive outcomes, resulting in stress and anxiety feelings.

Why do I overthink? How do people overthink?

What is overthinking a sign of?

Who is predisposed to overthinking?

As researched by psychologists and shown strongly, two of the commonest origin causes of overthinking has been found to be:
  1. Passive behavior learned from over-controlling parents

  2. Stressful, traumatic, negative events from the past life

With women being the most affected group.

1. Passive Behavior Learned From Parents

Most research has suggested that helicopter parenting is associated with negative outcomes.

Helicopter parenting refers to a distinct form of parental control best characterized by a tendency to hover over one’s child(ren), resolve potential problems for them, and rescue them from difficulties and challenges in a developmentally inappropriate way.

This low grant on autonomy can lead to children not trying their own techniques to solve obstacles, becoming more helpless and passive when facing frustrating circumstances. This can then lead them into overthinking.

Research shows children ages 5 to 7 years of age are more likely to express rumination and/or overthinking with this method of parenting. In another examination, college students who reported their parents were over-controlling showed higher levels of rumination.

2. Stressful & Traumatic Events From Past

Stressful life events can trigger or worsen overthinking. Overthinking, moreover, allows higher tendencies for depression and anxiety.

Am I over-thinking?

Examine this plot. You and your closest friend have a new disagreement. What do you think and feel when you realize this later?

The average worrier will feel mildly upset, plan to apologize or even move on as the argument was small and doesn't suffice long term grief, then forget about it and continue with their evening.

The overthinker will replay this argument over and over while rewriting different outcomes. By four in the morning, the overthinker will be mentally creating scenarios of seeing their friend in future encounters or even imagining an alteration in the relationship. The incident has triggered big questions in the overthinking mind, which blows the whole event way out of proportion.

Over-thinker's examining their own habits:

The Questioners

“Ask the same question(s) multiple times. I did not forget the answer, my overthinking is telling me the answer has changed.” — Marrisa E.
“I ask a lot of questions. A lot. I think it comes across as an interrogation, or that I am questioning the person as an individual rather than just asking questions in general. I’m just trying to work out all the details, scenarios, outcomes or options.” — Rachael A.

Overanalyzing Social Interactions

“Replay conversations over in my head to make sure I didn’t say anything to offend anyone. Overanalyzing people’s facial expressions and body language, feeling that my conversation is boring them.” — Donna S.
“Analyzing their every little facial micro-expression, let alone any minute change in their vocal inflection.” — Ursula A.

Overthinking comes from the emotional section of your brain

Like many traits of anxiety and depression, overthinking actually comes from one of our primitive preservation instincts.Seeing the future through the negative limelight is relatively easy; awhile dwelling on the past can cause anxiety stressors. We are humans with "stress buckets" filled with negative thoughts to the point where we overflow.

If he or she is not sleeping well, due to overthinking, tossing and turning while ruminating over the events, then they miss out on this vital REM sleep, perhaps waking up during the night, or not able to get to sleep until the early hours by which time it's time to get up and start the day with low energy and low mood.

Health Effects Due to Harmful Overthinking

  1. Anxiety: They are always anxious because they cannot reach any final point where their thoughts can stop, and they can take action. More so, it usually takes assistance to help one's self from this cycle. 

  2. Depression: Rumination worsens depression and promotes negative thinking. Overthinkers tend to focus more on the negative reminiscences of their past. They explain their present situations in pessimistic tones while expressing hopelessness about their future. Women being predisposed as they are more likely to ruminate. 

  3. Stress: Distress, or pressure of the debilitating kind, are close associates of overthinkers. While rumination causes stress, it is an endless loop as heightened tension causes further overthinking.

  4. Fatigue: The racing mind will soon be drained of energy. This effect soon shows up in the physical body, too, producing more cortisol, the stress hormone, leading to burnout.

  5. Indecision: The overthinkers find reasonable solutions to their problems. Even when they conceive a potentially useful solution, lack of confidence halts the ability to follow through. Moreover, they hardly have any intention or motivation to act on that solution. 

How Solution Focused Hypnotherapy Can Prevent Overthinking

Everyone overthinks sometimes. The problems arise for people who find it challenging to stop the thoughts. Whereas the occasional over-thinker can intellectualize the initial situation, the real ruminator is subject to a constant hostile barrage.

Overthinking can trap the brain in a worry cycle, which is both draining and destructive. It can make you feel like you’re grounded in one place, and if you don’t act, it can significantly influence your day-to-day life. Rumination makes you more susceptible to depression and anxiety. When ruminating becomes as instinctive as breathing, you need to soon deal with it and attain a solution.

Ruminating involves rehashing the past:

  • I shouldn’t have allowed for that confrontation in my organization. Everyone looked at me like I was a bully.

  • I could have stuck it out at my old job. I would be happier if I would have just stayed there.

Worrying involves negative—often catastrophic—predictions about the future:

  • I’m going to embarrass myself tomorrow when teaching my first class. My hands will shake, my words will stutter, and everyone will see that I’m incompetent.

  • I’ll never find a better job. It doesn’t matter what I do. It’s not going to happen.

Chronic worrying is not permanent. It's a mental habit that can be broken. You can discipline your brain to view life from a different perspective.

"Instead of "I'm stuck in life," tell yourself or even better journal, "I want to be more fulfilled and engaged today." Then make a plan to expand your skills and look for opportunities that inspire you.

You can also control your ruminating habit by connecting with your senses. Work to notice what you can hear, see, smell, taste, and feel.The purpose is to reconnect with your immediate world and everything around you. When you begin to see, you spend less time in your head.

You can also control your ruminating habit by connecting with your senses. Work to notice what you can hear, see, smell, taste, and feel. The purpose is to reconnect with your immediate world and everything around you. When you begin to see, you spend less time in your head.

You can also notice your overthinking habit and talk yourself out of it. Becoming self-aware can help you take control. Try these strategies when you find yourself overthinking:

  • Mark When You’re Thinking Too Deeply

Awareness is very important, the more you know the better you are able to acknowledge when your thoughts are becoming to aggressive.

  • Maintain Active Problem-Solving

Trying reformatting the question, instead of asking why did this happen? Ask yourself what I can do about it?

  • Journal Your Thoughts

It is okay to reflect, but scheduled thinking is much more proactive especially when you are prone to worry over small things.

Living in the present creates impossible avenues for revisiting the past.

  • Distract yourself to get out of repetitive thinking patterns

Busying your mind with activities you enjoy are better replacements for marinating in your thoughts. Try to exercise, journal, watch your favorite movie, etc. 

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